GITEX Shopper. Will it, won’t it?

GITEX Shopper is here. Bring on the debate about Retail vs Online shopping again!

Reports of the retail apocalypse are all around us. Every week, new headlines proclaim a highly distressed retail industry worldwide. The reality is that winners and losers have emerged. On one hand, disruptions in consumer behavior, technology, competition, and economics have transformed the retail market considerably, and many brands haven’t risen to the challenge.

On the other hand, these disruptions have opened floodgates of opportunity for brands to grow their relationships with shoppers. The continued evolution of technology, particularly in the areas of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and augmented and virtual reality, generates new opportunities for brands to personalize experiences and transform internal operations.

Today, we find ourselves not in the midst of a retail apocalypse, but a retail renaissance. This renaissance means that brands must rethink consumer experience — and how to invest in it —to thrive.


According to a Deloitte Report, Brick and mortar is predicted to grow by $36 billion
by 2022, and e-commerce is predicted to grow by $50 billion in the same period. There’s reason to be optimistic for both brick & mortar as well as online retailers. However, organizations must understand the major disruptions behind the renaissance before they can address them.

Let’s talk local now.

In the midst of all this e-commerce buzz in the UAE, comes the good ol’ GITEX Shopper. A traditional annual (that was bi-annual previously) retail event that aims to drive customers at the exhibition venue to shop. It cannot get more old school than this.

What works for GITEX Shopper?

Event Date & Location

This ain’t Syria. This is the aftermath of a typical GITEX Shopper in the past.

This year, we haven’t had the Spring GITEX Shopper. And so, the upcoming Autumn edition garners much interest and excitement. First week of the month means that residents who are salaried, which is a larger chunk of the population, will have that spending power. The central venue of the Dubai World Trade Center, which is connected with a Metro Station, ample parking space are all the right moves. Further, instead of having a long drawn eight days event, this will be a compact five day event; guaranteeing purchases from day one.

Tickets, Experience Zones, Prizes

There is a 30% drop in entry ticket this time. There are Experience zones such as Tips & Tricks, Ask the techsperts, Unboxing & a Drone Zone. And apart from all the freebies that you will get when you purchase from the retailers, the organizers also have their own Raffle Prizes.

And the challenges?

E-commerce, of course!

Retailers are likely to have GITEX offers online and that means shopping without visiting the venue and getting the products delivered to your doorstep, or picking up from the nearest store. Flash Deals at the venue? Well, the same can be replicated online too! UAE retailers are slowly but steadily balancing their marketing expenditure to give a sizeable chunk for digital acquisition.

So, who wins the Retail vs Online debate? And what is the future of a retail-only sales event such as GITEX Shopper?

The answer lies in perhaps LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman statement in his blog: “Software will not replace all offline retail, but will be used instead to transform certain offline retail experiences.” This was mentioned as a response to a apocalyptic comment made by venture capitalist Marc Andreessen in an infamous interview back in 2013. He said “Retail guys are going to go out of business and e-commerce will become the place everyone buys. You are not going to have a choice…Software eats retail.”

Five years on, while traditional retail has definitely been rocked by online, 90% of sales still take place in brick and mortar stores. At the same time, some of retail’s most interesting experiments are happening in physical locations, turbo-charged by technology.

A prime example of bits and bytes transforming brick and mortar is the new Nike by Melrose store which opened this summer in Los Angeles.

Nike by Melrose store in Los Angeles

The first “Nike Live” concept, Nike by Melrose is built on data and driven by digital. The store checks many of the boxes of what physical retail needs to be in 2018 and beyond – Localized, Digitized, Personalized, Humanized, Socialized.

Localized – It’s called Nike by Melrose not just for its Melrose Avenue street address, but because “the store was built by the people of Melrose”. Both its location and the product it stocks were determined by Nike digital commerce data, gathered from the surrounding area (particularly via input from NikePlus members). City-specific product will be stocked and rotated frequently, also on the basis of data analysis. As VP and GM of Nike Direct Stores Cathy Sparks told the Los Angeles Times, “About 15% of our apparel and 25% of our footwear is going to change every two weeks…if a color like yellow is trending with our customers, then we’re going to bring in yellow.”

Digitized – The concept is not just informed by the NikePlus app, it’s controlled by it. To get the most out of the experience, shoppers need to access the store via NikePlus, which in turn generates new data, which is then fed back into Nike by Melrose – a virtuous cycle. The utility of the app puts the customer in control. For example, you can reserve an item you like on NikePlus, and pick up in store at a smart locker. You can also scan any code on any product in store to request your size, or check additional colors or real-time stock availability. NikePlus members are given an extra incentive to come back regularly – scan a code on your app at the NikePlus Unlock Box (vending machine) every two weeks for instant product or rewards.

Personalized – The store is not just tailored to surrounding zip codes, it’s personalized to individuals. NikePlus members will be recognized as soon as they enter a geofenced area around the store, and as Nike learns more about a NikePlus user’s behavior, items might be automatically set aside, in that person’s size, regardless of whether a request has been made. 

Humanized – One of the defining differences of physical retail is the ability to be served by a living, breathing human being, not a chatbot. At the Sneaker Bar inside Nike by Melrose, shoppers can interact with a “store athlete” who is expert in footwear. NikePlus members can also book 15-minute Express Sessions for more in-depth one-on-one advice.

Nike by Melrose store – Instagram friendly

Socialized – The Nike by Melrose experience is made for sharing in an Instagram age. The art deco exterior and the glassy interiors are made to be selfie friendly!

To return to the relevance of GITEX Shopper in this age of e-commerce we must conclude that “software amplifies retail”.  Software can bring more customers to the stores, increase conversion in the store, reduce overall costs for the retailer via better analytics on supply and demand, and — for the customer — create a radically better real-life shopping experience. This is the eventual evolution of shopping in the UAE and it remains to be seen which retailer takes the lead here. 

And all retail-only shopping events such as GITEX Shopper may have to work on digital innovations to be relevant in the future. 

With inputs from Forbes.

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Kiran Borkar

Having been part of the Internet Industry since the late Nineties, he believes Nostradamus goofed up by not predicting how the World Wide Web would change the world.

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